This just in from the Wall St. Journal: AT&T Offers New Concessions In BellSouth Deal
WASHINGTON — AT&T Inc. has offered a new set of concessions that are expected to satisfy the two Democrats on the Federal Communications Commission and lead to approval of the company’s $85 billion buyout of BellSouth Corp.
Approval by the full commission could happen as soon as Friday.
AT&T filed a letter of commitment with the agency Thursday night that adds a number of new conditions to the deal, including a promise to observe “network neutrality” principles, an offer of affordable stand-alone digital subscriber line service and divestment of some wireless spectrum.
1 . Effective on the Merger Closing Date, and continuing for 30 months thereafter, AT&T/BellSouth will conduct business in a manner that comports with the principles set forth in the Commission’s Policy Statement, issued September 23, 2005 (FCC 05-151).
2. AT&T/BellSouth also commits that it will maintain a neutral network and neutral routing in its wireline broadband Internet access service. 15 This’ commitment shall be satisfied by AT&T/BellSouth’s agreement not to provide or to sell to Internet content, application, or service providers, including those affiliated with AT&T/BellSouth, any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet transmitted over AT&T/BellSouth’s wireline broadband Internet access service based on its source, ownership or destination.
This commitment shall apply to AT&T/BellSouth’s wireline broadband Internet access service from the network side of the customer premise equipment up to and including the Internet Exchange Point closest to the customer’s premise, defined as the point of interconnection that is logically, temporally or physically closest to the customer’s premise where public or private Internet backbone networks freely exchange Internet packets.
This commitment does not apply to AT&T/BellSouth’s enterprise managed IP services, defined as services available only to enterprise customers 16 that are separate services from, and can be purchased without, AT&T/BellSouth’s wireline broadband Internet access service, including, but not limited to, virtual private network (VPN) services provided to enterprise customers. This commitment also does not apply to AT&T/BellSouth’s Internet Protocol television (IPTV) service. These exclusions shall not result in the privileging, degradation, or prioritization of packets transmitted or received by AT&T/BellSouth’s non-enterprise customers’ wireline broadband Internet access service from the network side of the customer premise equipment up to and including the Internet Exchange Point closest to the customer’s premise, as defined above.
This commitment shall sunset on the earlier of (1) two years from the Merger Closing Date, or (2) the effective date of any legislation enacted by Congress subsequent to the Merger Closing Date that substantially addresses “network neutrality” obligations of broadband Internet access providers, including, but not limited to, any legislation that substantially addresses the privileging, degradation, or prioritization of broadband Internet access traffic.
Thus, the neuts have extracted most of what they wanted from the FCC after Congress told them to go take a hike, which is not exactly a victory for the Democratic Process. It simply means that two ignorant commissioners – Copps and Adelstein – were able to subvert the will of the people.
But the larger question is whether this is a victory for the Internet or even a victory for Google and the other moneybags who funded the net neutrality movement and stood to make the greatest gains from it. On one hand, Google loses from this agreement because AT&T retains the right to prioritize its IPTV service, the main juicy plum that Google wanted to cannibalize. But Google wins because it’s still able to out-perform other web sites by caching content in its various massive server farms, a permanent advantage that the carriers can’t counteract with higher-quality transport services.
And there’s nothing in this about censorship of political speech, but we all knew that was bullshit form the get-go.
In the meantime, Internet service in Asia remains severely degraded by the loss of a fiber-optic tube from Taiwan to an earthquake, and Google isn’t volunteering to help restore it or to invest in the two new tubes the carriers are going to lay for a billion dollars.
Isn’t democracy wonderful?
UPDATE: The deal is done.